I just want to make clear – I am not a programmer. Not that I wouldn’t love that skill set. The database applications we use have point and click functionality similar to using Dreamweaver to build a web page.
While checking my email in the morning I got a note from a client I have been working with for about a year and a half. My contact is the company’s database administrator. In general, he takes care of the basic to intermediary work and contacts us when he needs to do something more advanced. He describes the issue in the email and asks if I’m available for a call. I have time before lunch so we set up a call in an hour. That gives me enough time to think about possible solutions beforehand.
Almost all of my client calls are done using online services such as GoToMeeting or WebEx which provide telephone, video, and screen sharing capabilities. I support clients around the world, and these tools enable me to do a job that would otherwise be very difficult to coordinate with a full-time working spouse and school-aged kids.
The call starts at 10am. We review the functionality he would like to add and clarify requirements. It’s been about a year since I was actively working on this application, so I need to refresh my memory on the structure. Once the requirements are clear, we implement the changes. My client likes to learn so I spend time teaching him how to do it himself for next time.
I spend about an hour creating new reports for another ongoing client.
My next call of the day is with a new client. Usually, when we start working with a new client we have a ‘kick off’ call to officially start the project. During this call we discuss the scope of the project, goals and how the goals are prioritized. We discuss who will be using the application, and how the data is currently being collected and analyzed. We discuss billing and schedule a recurring meeting.
Towards the end of the call I repeat the goals back to the client so that everyone is clear what we need to accomplish. We acknowledge that things move slowly over the holidays and agree to touch base the first week of the new year.
When I was working as a research scientist, one of my favorite parts of the job was building relationships with collaborators doing joint or complementary research. As a consultant, I think of my clients as collaborators, and the working relationships that develop make the work enjoyable and rewarding. I work with people in many different industries, and each person contributes knowledge of their particular business processes. While the businesses differ many challenges are the same. I draw from the experiences I’ve had during all these client engagements.
While modifying reports for a client earlier in the day, I notice that a report setting is not saving properly. I submit a support case by contacting product support and asked them if this is a known issue. I get an email back before the end of the day that yes, it is a known bug and it will be fixed in the next software release.
I check my watch; I’m running late. I throw my laptop in my bag and rush out to pick up my kids from their afterschool program. I’m reminded of a friend who when asked her workout routine for staying thin says, “I run to get my kids to school on time, I run to work, I run to meetings…” You get the drift :).